The Bipolar is Here And It’s Not Good

Ok, so the comic above MAY be a little extreme…if you’re not medicated that is.

Anyways, I don’t really like putting labels on things. Especially when it comes to my mental health.

In the past decade and a half-ish, I’ve been diagnosed with the following mental illnesses:

  1. Dysthymia
  2. Clinical Depression
  3. Bipolar Disorder
  4. Cyclothymia
  5. Unspecific Anxiety Disorder
  6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  7. Borderline Personality Disorder
  8. Adult ADD

And last but not least!

Substance Abuse Disorder!

Now let’s get real here for a second…Dysthymia is a long but mild form of depression. Got it. Clinical depression is a severe form of depression. Huh. Interesting Bipolar disorder has a whole host of symptoms including:

Bipolar I Disorder is the more serious of the two types of Bipolar Disorder. This is due to the presence of Manic Episodes in the criteria for Bipolar I Disorder. There is an absence of Manic Episodes in the criteria for Bipolar II Disorder, rather it involves a history of hypomania. Hypomania is similar to mania; however, it is not serious enough to cause social or occupational impairment, hospitalization, or psychotic features (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Bipolar I Disorder may be described as occurring on a continuum of severity ranging from mild forms of depression with brief mania to severe depression with rapid cycling mania. Psychotic features may also accompany episodes of severe mania and depression (Thomas, 2004).

How common is Bipolar I Disorder?
The rate of Bipolar I Disorder is approximately equal in both males and females, but gender does appear to be related to the number and type of episodes (manic episodes are more common in men and outnumber the depressive episodes, while major depressive episodes are more common in women and outnumber the manic episodes). The lifetime prevalence rate ranges from 0.4% to 1.6% (Zuckerman, 1999).

Diagnostic Criteria:
The criteria is presented for the mood episodes that are significant in the diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder (Manic Episode, Major Depressive Episode, Mixed Episode). Although the various episodes are central for the disorder diagnosis, they cannot be diagnosed as separate entities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Diagnostic Criteria for Bipolar I Disorder – (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

A. Criteria have been met for at least one Manic or Mixed Episode.
B. The symptoms cause social/occupational distress or impairment.
C. The symptoms are not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder, and are not superimposed on Schizpophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
Diagnostic Criteria for a Manic Episode – (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
A. Persistent elevated, expansive, or irritable mood for at least one week
(unless hospitalization is required).
B. At least three of the following symptoms are present during mood disturbance
(four if mood is irritable):
 inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
 decreased need for sleep
 increased talkativeness
 flight of ideas or racing thoughts
 increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation
 increase in risky behavior
C. Symptoms don’t meet criteria for a Mixed Episode.
D. Level of severity sufficient to cause social or occupational impairment, hospitalization, or psychotic features.
E. Symptoms are not due to a substance or medical condition.
Diagnostic Criteria for a Mixed Episode – (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
A. Criteria for both Manic and Major Depressive Episode are met (excluding duration) almost every day for at least one week.
B. Level of severity sufficient to cause social or occupational impairment, hospitalization, or psychotic features.
C. Symptoms are not due to a substance or medical condition.
Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Episode
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
A. At least five of the following symptoms present during a two-week period nearly every day; at least one symptom is either depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure:
 depressed mood most of the day
 diminished interest in nearly all activities most of the day
• significant change in weight or appetite
• insomnia or hypersomnia
 psychomotor agitation or retardation
 fatigue or decreased energy
 inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness
 difficulty concentrating or making decisions
 recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts
B. Symptoms don’t meet criteria for a Mixed Episode.
C. Symptoms cause significant social/occupational impairment or distress.
D. Symptoms are not due to a substance or medical condition.
E. Symptoms are not better accounted for by Bereavement.

Well isn’t that fun. I mean, you don’t have to meet ALL of the criteria but wow! So, how does one become diagnosed with bipolar? How does a patient explain when severely depressed, or severely manic or while in a mixed episode, or maybe hypomanic, or maybe cyclothymic exactly what is happening to them?

Well, it takes a lot of time but that’s the issue with bipolar isn’t it? lol Anyways, this is why I don’t like putting labels on people who have mental “illnesses.” I hate that term by the way. If you have a broken arm, nobody says, oh that’s such an illness! No, you just have a broken arm. Some people do/can recover from  psychiatric life interruptions as I like to call them and for the most part with medication and therapy it can be controlled and people can live very normal lives.

My addiction actually started when I was diagnosed with “bipolar disorder.” I was going through a rough patch during my first semester at Valencia College in Orlando, FL at the time. The transition from high school to college was somewhat easy but I have had issues with social anxiety my entire life – that one I’ll stick a big ol’ fat label on my ass all day long. I have no issue with it. Ironically, I’ll get up behind a podium and give a speech any day of the week. Odd how that works isn’t it? That’s just one of the reasons I love psychology so much!

So, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Hehe yeah I know.

But seriously – How is it possible that over the course of say, twelve or so years I was diagnosed with a new psychiatric life interruption on almost a yearly basis? Well that’s easy there are a few reasons. First off there’s evidence (first hand accounts as well as interviews and personal research) that shows evidence that most addicts feel they were born addicts. So, the fact that I was diagnosed almost every year with something new was probably because I was getting bored with whatever drugs/meds they were giving me and I basically was “smart,” enough to tell the doc whatever he needed to hear to bump me up or give me something new. Pretty cool little trick if you’re a sociopath. Or an addict.

Second, psychiatrist prescribe medications and psychologists or mental health counselors do therapy. Insurance companies DO. NOT. LIKE. PSYCHOLOGISTS. They’re expensive, time consuming and essentially they don’t play well with others – essentially once you begin seeing a counselor/therapist, it’s not easy to stop seeing a counselor. Not because you can’t or because it’s addictive but because you won’t want to! Again, insurance companies, not so hot about dishing out cash to those folks on a weekly basis.

Now, psychiatrists on the other hand. They diagnose your mental health issues, prescribe you medications and send you on your way. Typically they’ll see you twice a month, maybe more if you have some severe issues going on and after that, once a month and you’re in and out in less than 30 minutes with your script ready to go and medications for insurance companies are cheeeeaaap. But medications alone don’t solve problems.

Medications are like putting band-aids on gunshot wounds. People who are experiencing psychiatric life interruptions need a professional to talk to on a regular basis and need to go through counseling so they can find what the real issue is that got them to the point in their life that they are.

That was my life for many, many years. Nobody to really talk to or get guidance from. Just pill after pill after pill. Now don’t go feeling sorry for ol’ C. Brooks here. I did it to myself. Granted, I didn’t really know what to do and I didn’t think therapy would actually help me either. Things changed though when I was about twenty seven. I had overdosed on pain killers and my dad found me pretty much near death on the floor of our kitchen. I got rushed to the ER, they pumped my stomach, yada yada yada, few days later I was back at home because I refused rehab/detox. My brother stepped up and recommended this therapist and I decided to/was forced to give him a shot. I can honestly say he changed my life.

Everything I had been told, everything I had fed into over the years from psych after psych after psych, he told me was basically a bunch of bull crap and together we were going to start over. He sent me to a new psychiatrist and him and I put a game plan of success together. We figured out what would work and what wouldn’t. He took two hours with me to conclude that one of the biggest things wrong with me was that I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. How can you possibly tell if ANY psychotropic medication is working if you’re under the influence of something all the time?

Well that wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time but I was open to his suggestions. We tried some new meds, we went a DNA sample in for testing to see if I was an “outlier,” meaning to see if certain medications just would not be efficacious for me and come to find out yes, many standard treatments would not work for me so we had to find another avenue.

That was five years ago. I’ve been on the same medication therapy and have been seeing a therapist consistently since then. Something about Irma though…something about that stupid fucking storm has me really, really twisted and I can’t seem to put my finger on it and I don’t know why.

I’m not using, I’m not drinking, I’m taking the same meds but I have literally spent more money than I care to admit on survival gear, MRE’s (basically those cool NASA ice cream bars you had as a kid) so basically freeze dried food with like a forever shelf life, batteries, flashlights, knives, I bought a new AR-15 assault rifle! (Now…hear me out on this one. I’ve always loved guns and this whole craziness I’m experiencing probably brought on the purchase but it was gonna happen eventually. I already have a bunch of guns, this is just a new addition lol) I have a new bug-out-bag full of supplies to last me three days of the shit hits the fan i.e. if Trump does something stupid and everything goes to hell or whatnot, I have a bug-out-case with enough medical supplies and food rations to last weeks. It’s all in separate water tight containers so a nuclear bomb would probably bounce right off the dang thing.

Ugh. I don’t know why though and I can’t seem to stop. I’ve become obsessed. Tactical gear, knives, first aid kits, and the list goes on and on.

Now, there’s always been a joke about and within psych majors. We’re all a little crazy and we all try to self-diagnose ourselves. And it’s funny because it’s true. This though, I’ve never experienced this type of natural disaster supply hoarding before.

I don’t know why. I figured maybe it was some trauma from Irma. Maybe seeing my family so fucked up the way it was, I’m not ready to deal with the fall out so I’m just trying to keep myself occupied as best I can to not think about it and face it? Maybe UCF this semester is just kicking my ass so badly I’m retreating to a safe place, like “the woods,” with all of my survival gear ready to go?

It’s all hypothetical but it’s subjective. It’s my own reasoning and my damn therapist is on vacation. Now I’ve come a long way. A very long way. I’ve been going to AA meetings in Orlando. I’ve recently switched from NA, not a big deal, not a huge “because this happened,” I just happen to like this group that has a good meeting schedule that works with my classes on campus. I don’t want to go back to the unproductive, unpredictable C. Brooks that I used to be so many years ago. I feel as if I’m in active addiction again and I haven’t felt this way in quite some time.

Is it bipolar? I don’t know. Could it be a little PTSD from the hurricane and all that I experienced? Doubtful, it wasn’t that traumatic, I mean c’mon.

So what the hell is wrong with me?

Sigh. I don’t normally end my blogs like this but tonight is going to be an exception. I’ve had no free time lately, I’ve been over stressed, over worked and haven’t been sleeping or eating right. I haven’t been able to catch up with school since the storm hit as much as I try so I’m just gonna call it an early night, start new tomorrow and take it one day at a time.

Remember, you are never alone, nor am I.

C. Brooks

2 thoughts on “The Bipolar is Here And It’s Not Good

  1. Alicia

    I wish I knew what to say to this. Like you, I spent my twenties being diagnosed with a myriad of “mental illnesses,” many of them the same as you. Clinical depression, GAD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality. I still don’t know exactly what label to put on it. I’m not a huge fan of labels or diagnoses, but sometimes they can be helpful. At least some of them were for me. The first few diagnoses weren’t. The bipolar disorder one started to set me on the right path for getting my crap together. That was the first one that sounded right, and allowed me to start educating myself. OK, technically I’d already gotten some education about it…I was a psych major too. And though I’d tried to self-diagnose, I completely missed the bipolar idea. And even if I’d caught on to it myself, my education had been as the one on the psych side of it, not the one who lived with it. It allowed me to start learning about more appropriate meds, and coping skills that might actually have a shot at working. But it still wasn’t quite there. Then they handed me the borderline thing. I didn’t feel that was quite right either, but that one allowed me to seek therapy techniques that were more helpful than anything I’d done up to that point. I’d been in therapy off and on over the years…why tell people that the best combo for help was meds plus therapy, and then not put my money where my mouth was? But it never seemed to do as much good as I felt it should. I generally blamed myself for that. Maybe I wasn’t doing all I could or should be, even though I felt like I was doing my best. What I eventually learned was that therapy hadn’t worked well because most counselors were only helping me deal with an immediate situation, not get coping skills for the long-term that I could use on a daily basis, not just when sitting in their offices. The therapist who worked with a lot of people with borderline (as they call it) was the first to help me start finding those long-term, daily-use coping skills, and lo and behold it worked wonders. I was even able to stop therapy for a prlonged period of time once I reached a point where I could use those skills consistently. Then enter this cancer thing, and that sent me right back into therapy, and right back onto the meds I’d been able to stop for quite awhile too..under doctor’s supervision. The stress of this has caused me to experience what psych people would call manic symptoms..not sleeping, impulsive decisions, spending way the hell too much money on things I don’t need. I guess all that to say this. Try not to be too hard on yourself, to think that “something is wrong” with you. I doubt it is. Whatever you call it, prolonged stress like you’re experiencing right now is enough to send anyone’s personality and/or mental issues into overdrive. Or to creat them if someone didn’t have too many of them before…let alone people who did. You’re handling the stress as well as you can, better than many would. Better than I might for sure. How long is your therapist gone? (Don’t they always seem to take vacation at the worst possible times? Kind of like doctors in that way.) I hope they get back soon, so you can hash this out with them. Yes, maybe these are symptoms of stress, and maybe they do need to be reined back in with a therapist’s help, or the hellp of meds, and whatever coping skills you’ve developed. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you for having them. Please try to take it easy on yourself, give yourself a break. I imagine it’s what you’d do for anyone else who told you what you just wrote here. We always think we should be different somehow when it’s ourselves, but we’re not. Let me know if I can be here for you in any way, even if that’s just to listen.


    1. Hey Alicia, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, it’s been bothering me that I haven’t. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a tad busy lol I agree, unfortunately sometimes in therapy it can be just like the meds, a quick fix. It’s not supposed to be about just going in and talking about your week like you’d talk to your buddy. It’s about learning coping skills you can apply for the long term. Now that my therapist is back in town and things have calmed down a little bit I’ve sort of been able to get back and get things on cruise control a bit more than I was able to. Today I’m taking a break probably for the first time since Irma which is nice. I originally planned to drive over to UCF and meet with a TA to go over some homework questions but I can do that tomorrow since I have class then and save myself the trip. It’s not due for a few days anyways. So, that’s that lol. Again, sorry for the delay. I think I’m gonna take a nap now!


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